Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nine innings: 03.01.07

Playing nine innings while begging Matt White for a couple million bucks, or at least a few rocks . . .

1. Manny's in camp. He's in fantastic shape, to the point that he looks like he could go 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs if the season started today. And the ever-present goofy smile on his face confirms Official Manny Spokesman Julian Tavarez's claim that he's content being a member of the Boston Red Sox. So I have to ask: do we really need to spend any more words on this nonsense, at least until someone gets on-the-record confirmation of what actually happened last August? The snide, innuendo-laden hatchet jobs just get so damn old.

2. I'm giddy with anticipation for Daisuke Matsuzaka's Red Sox debut tonight, and no, I don't care that it's against freakin' Boston College; he could be facing the Saugus Little Leaguers at this point, and after all these months of devouring the hype, intrigue, and grainy YouTube footage, I'd still be geeked to watch him finally take the mound in a Red Sox jersey. Which brings me to a particularly pressing question for baseball fans everywhere: Where, exactly, do you take Dice-K in your fantasy league draft? I'm convinced he's going no later than the second round of the 11-team, semi-high-stakes league I'm in with some work buddies - hell, I might just be the one to pull the trigger. Yeah, I think he's going to be that good, though I suppose I should watch him pitch against someone other than an Atlantic Coast Conference also-ran before I proclaim him the Cy Young frontrunner.

3. It's not exactly a reenactment of the Bronx Zoo, but a Sox fan had to chuckle at the melodrama surrounding the Yankees earlier this spring. Mariano Rivera surprised everyone by speaking publicly about his disappointment over not being signed beyond this season. Gary Sheffield, classy as always, ripped Joe Torre from afar, while Randy Johnson, surly as always, blamed everyone in New York but himself for his failure to make it there. What else? Let's see . . . Bernie Williams refused to depart as gracefully as he played, Stanford tough guy Mike Mussina called out Porcelain Carl Pavano, and Georgie Porgie kept such a low profile that the suspicion is growing that there's a Weekend At Bernie's situation going on here. Geez, and here we thought Brian Cashman had restored some level of sanity to the franchise.

4. Oh, and as for the devastating news that Jeter and A-Rod no longer have sleepovers? The supposed feud is blown way out of proportion. While they may not quite be Best Friends Forever, we here at TATB have it on good authority that they still get together every few weeks to make S'mores, slather each other in Driven and purple lipstick, gossip and giggle about the cute boys on other big league teams, and braid each other's hair. It's quite sweet, really.

5. I'd be a lot more concerned about the Sox's wait-and-see approach to Curt Schilling's request for an extension if he didn't look like he was hiding the other four members of the starting rotation under his shirt.

6. All right, dear readers, I've got an assignment for you. (Don't worry, this time it doesn't involve the Elephant Walk.) I'm looking for a couple good baseball and NBA books to add to my sports library, and other than the recent Clemente bio, I'm having a tough time finding anything interesting I haven't already read. So if you've got a second, shoot me an email or peck a few words in the comments with your suggestions and favorites, old or new, best-sellers or obscurities. And for the record, I've obviously got several copies of this masterpiece already.

7. A three-item Patriots interlude: 1) I'm going to be bummed if they don't get Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis in the first round. He's a perfect fit for the system, and if you are familiar with his backstory, you know his maturity and work ethic is beyond reproach. 2) Some fortunate team (Denver?) is going to be getting a very good football player in Daniel Graham. He's a better receiver than he gets credit for, in part because he had the dropsies early in his career and the reputation stuck, and in part because he sacrificed his own numbers for the betterment of the team. Graham's the best blocking tight end the Patriots have had since Lin Dawson, he was respected by his coaches and teammates, and he'll be missed even if Dave Thomas does prove to be a capable replacement. 3) Randy Moss to the Pats? Intriguing on some level, but I suspect the odds of it happening are about the same as Belichick signing ass-capped loudmouth Joey Porter: slim, but not quite none.

8. I'm not going to get all Simmonsy on you and disingenuously pretend that three Saturdays spent slobbering over Greg Oden and Kevin Durant have made me a Bilas-level expert on college hoops, but I will say this: Dick Vitale (and inadvertently, Billy Donovan) confirmed what I've thought all along, that Al Horford is going to be a far superior pro to Joakim Noah. In terms of size and skill, Horford is a classic NBA power forward, and he's only getting better. Noah? He plays passionately and he's a clever interior passer, but his shot is a mess and I'm not sure he's going to be able to rebound in the NBA. To put it another way: If the ping-pong balls fail the Celtics again and they somehow end up taking Noah at No. 3, I'm giving the *%& up.

9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Sure, we all see President Dubya and The Mick and the handiwork of a crazed Topps photoshopper, but this card is really about what you don't see. Rumor has it that just outside the frame on the right, A-Rod is standing in the on-deck circle, flipping Jeter the bird as a single tear rolls down his perfectly exfoliated cheek. (C'mon, you knew we were kidding before! They don't make S'mores! They hate each other!)

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